Barcelona v Manchester United

Manchester United pen pix

May 26, 2009
By Phil Holland
(Archive)

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ROUTES TO ROME: Barcelona | Manchester United


EDWIN VAN DER SAR (born October 29, 1970, goalkeeper)

GettyImagesEdwin van der Sar: A Champions League winner with Ajax

The former Holland international has brought consistency and excellence to a position which has so often been United's Achilles heel since Peter Schmeichel's departure. Van der Sar has been on top form this season keeping seven clean sheets in the nine Champions League matches in which he has played and setting records aplenty in the Premier League.

TOMASZ KUSZCZAK (March 20, 1982, goalkeeper)

As Van der Sar's understudy, the Pole has only started two Champions League games this term: the 0-0 draw away to Villarreal and the 2-2 home draw against AaB. But despite such restrictions Sir Alex Ferguson considers Kuszczak a reliable shot-stopper and ideal back-up for his first choice keeper, especially now Ben Foster can't feature after having surgery on his hand.

GARY NEVILLE (February 18, 1975, defender)

United's veteran club captain boasts invaluable experience but injury and age are catching up with him. Despite his increasing frailty, with one Champions League final and numerous European campaigns behind him, Neville is certainly worth his place in United's squad.

RAFAEL (July 9, 1990, defender)

The young Brazilian has impressed in his debut season outshining his twin brother, Fabio, and United stalwart Gary Neville. Rafael's attacking instincts fit perfectly with United's style of play, although his defensive attributes may need a little more work.

PATRICE EVRA (May 15, 1981, defender)

The France international has made the left-back slot his own and, in addition to his key defensive role, Evra's surging runs down the wing give United another option going forward. His battle with Lionel Messi will be one of the final's most compelling duels.

RIO FERDINAND (November 7, 1978, defender)

Niggling back and calf injuries have taken the sheen off an otherwise superlative season for Ferdinand. Alongside Vidic, the English international has provided the platform of United's success and, with increased maturity, his overall game has improved. His reading of situations matches his tackling and positional skills.

NEMANJA VIDIC (October 21, 1981, defender)

An excellent season has seen the commanding Serbian central defender take many plaudits. Rarely putting a foot wrong his aerial power contributes at both ends of the pitch; while his strength, speed and combative style puts the fear into opposition forwards.

JONNY EVANS (January 2, 1988, centre back)

At the tender age of 21, Evans has proved to be an able deputy for Ferdinand and will only get better playing alongside Vidic. A product of the United academy, Evans is a Northern Irish international and if injury rules out Rio, Evans will step in.

JOHN O'SHEA (April 30, 1981, defender/midfielder)

United's utility player has found himself filling in at right-back recently and is expected to start in Rome. Equally comfortable anywhere across the back four, or in a holding role in midfield, O'Shea might not be spectacular but is one of Ferguson's most consistent and reliable players.

MICHAEL CARRICK (July 28, 1981, midfielder)

Lauded by some as one of the most skilful and technically proficient players of his generation, Carrick has grown into the central midfield role. He is the lynchpin around who the team's more attacking players revolve. He boasts vision, awareness and the ability to score the occasional goal himself as his strengths and is a vital member of the squad.

PAUL SCHOLES (November 16, 1974, midfielder)

Although his best years are behind him and his goalscoring ratio may have dropped, Scholes still has the vision and ability to play the killer ball. He still can't tackle but when on the ball the veteran midfielder can certainly pull the strings.

ANDERSON (April 13, 1988, midfielder)

With Darren Fletcher suspended, Anderson could find himself starting in Rome. While perhaps not the very finest exponent of the holding midfield role as he lacks a certain composure, Anderson has the requisite energy and, in terms of tackling and distribution, is rarely found wanting.

RYAN GIGGS (November 29, 1973, midfielder)

GettyImagesRyan Giggs: Still influential

The PFA Player of the Year has moved inside from the left flank as age has crept up on him, but the change in position has only made him more influential. His experience and uncanny ability to find time and space in congested areas makes him one of United most important players.

PARK JI-SUNG (February 25, 1981, midfielder)

The South Korean's high-energy game and excellent stamina mean United's workhorse is consistently reliable and he will be keen to make up for the disappointment of not being selected for last year's final.

CRISTIANO RONALDO (February 5, 1985, forward)

The 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year is United's match-winner. Ronaldo is United's most potent attacking force and main goal threat, be it be from set-pieces or open play. With a belief in open attacking football, Barcelona are unlikely to employ tight marking on the Portuguese, which would suit United and their star man perfectly.

DIMITAR BERBATOV (January 30, 1981, forward)

Enigmatic or just lazy? The Bulgarian striker still divides opinion after his £30.75m move last summer. While Berbatov's hunched shoulders and body language suggest he fails to match the rest of the team's work ethic, he boasts undeniable control and quality and can affect the game with one touch.

WAYNE ROONEY (October 24, 1985, forward)

Rooney is United's most all-round player. Ronaldo might steal the headlines but thanks to his drive, determination, workrate and explosive power, it is Rooney who embodies the fans' rabid enthusiasm on the pitch. At home behind a loan striker, as a striker or - increasingly - drifting in from a wide left position, the England striker is a constant threat.

CARLOS TEVEZ (February 5, 1984, forward)

Speculation continues about the future of the on-loan Argentine striker, but it looks likely he might start, again, from the bench. A tenacious striker, comfortable in the penalty area and dropping deep, has the knack of scoring important goals and, if he is to leave United, he will do so with two Premier League winners medals and perhaps two European Cup triumphs.